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Worship Resources for Black History Month

Stock man overlooking beach with bible

We, the Remnant, March On

By Nicolas “nYk p” Pettye

Adapted by the author, for liturgy

Leader: Evil modern times do bring,
Congregation: But a Remnant still remains

Leader: Of which people, with passion, sing
Congregation: Countless heavenly refrains

Leader: That depict their restless love,
Congregation: Not new, but yet so fresh,

Leader: That flutter like a Dove
Congregation: Encaged within their flesh.

Leader: In a modern, barren land
Congregation: Desiccated by hatred,

Leader: Their love transforms dry sand
Congregation: Into fertile soil, so sacred.

Leader: Fertilized by YHWH’s presence,
Congregation: The soil nurtures new seeds.

Leader: In YHWH’s benevolent essence,
Congregation: They grow to meet the world’s needs.

Leader: We are that Remnant
Congregation: Consumed with YHWH’s love.

Leader: With a temper so clement,
Congregation: We exude heaven above.

Leader: In unity that surpasses
Congregation: Race, gender, and age,

Leader: While resisting social classes,
Congregation: A holy war we wage…

Leader: A war not fought with guns
Congregation: But with peaceful action and prayer

Leader: Deprived of love and care…
Congregation: A war fueled by our passion

Leader: For Yeshua’s Kingdom
Congregation: As we assert the just will of Heaven

Leader: Like a resounding drum.
Congregation: With our swords, the holy writ, drawn,

Leader: And with YHWH’s love as our battle axe,
All: We, the Remnant, march on
With the Ruach at our backs!

A Prayer for Justice

By Stephon Carlisle Void

Heavenly Father, how many more names must be added to the list? How many more hashtags must we post? How many more vigils must be held? How many more mothers must bury their children? How many marches and how many events must we hold until our nation sees that there is an epidemic of death by police?

Father, we tell our children to keep their hands visible, always comply, don’t wear a hoodie, don’t walk too fast, don’t walk too slow, walk in pairs to the store, be respectful, and do whatever it takes to make it home. Why do they fear us, O God? We aren’t animals. We are not a threat. We are your children, just like they are. Still, we lose our lives because they fear the greatness inside of us. Night after night, we see our own gunned down because they were the wrong color, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Lord, we are tired; we are afraid; we are angry; and we are confused. In the midst of our pain, God, we still trust you. You said in your word, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV[i]). Lord, we are seeking your face today. We admit we are not perfect and we have not done all we can.

We are pleading for the pain to stop. We are praying to stop the tears from falling down our cheeks. We pray that our justice system no longer sees us as a target and that they soon will see us as human beings. We need your wisdom. We need your strength. We need your peace to spread, far and wide, so that our sons and daughters make it back home.

Father, in this troublesome time, help us not return violence for violence. Help us to stand on your Word and your promises. We know that change will not be easy and that we will have to endure many tests. Lord, don’t move the mountain. We ask that you give us the strength to climb. We pray that there will be a day when all our children can live without fear. We pray that the hashtags of names be replaced with #Faith, #Hope, and #Love.

We pray that your love will conquer all the fear and hatred in this country.

We pray that our justice system will be equal and just --for all of us.

May we soon see a day where we all are truly free.

It is in your name we pray, Amen.

Psalm 13 Prayer

By Alexis Carter

For times like ours, the author offers words of comfort from Psalm 13. First, read Psalm 13 to the congregation. Begin this prayer by raising a few of these contextual “how long” questions. (Feel free to add more to reflect your context.)

Prayer:
How long, O Lord,
Will we inhabit a land under false notions of freedom when many feel enslaved no matter what declarations are made?

How long, O Lord,
Will black bodies be judged as if they are on perennial and proverbial auction blocks—being feared for their blackness and measured by their statures?

How long, O Lord,
Will many of your people be paralyzed by the fear that when their cars stop or the police stop them, their lives may stop too?

How long, O Lord,
Will the Corettas, the Jesse Evers, the Sybrina Fultons, the Samaria Rices, the Crutchers, the Taylors, and the Floyds have to weep for the senseless killings of their husbands and sons?

If we look at the entire Old Testament, we see dozens of times when we (humankind) question God about things we do not understand. How long? How long? How long? We also see scores of times when God turns the how long question back upon us, often as a question of righteousness. If God were to question us and our times, what might we hear today?

How long, my people?
Until you fix the broken dam that holds back justice and clean up the polluted river of righteousness.

How long, my people?
Until you stop creating people in your preferred image and understand that each soul bears the Divine Image and is worthy of being treated with respect and compassion.

How long, my people?
Until your hashtags of hope become words in your mouths, policies on papers, and fight in your hearts.

How long, my people?
Until fighting terrorism is not primarily the job of the State Department or TSA guarding our airways, but is also about the departments within our states and TPD helping everyone to feel safe on streets and highways.

How long, my people?
Until you stop pretending that you do not recognize that some people simply traded their white sheets and cone hats for black uniforms and hats to accomplish the same purposes.

Until “jumping the gun” is not your first response to blackness and security is not in your right to bear arms, but in rightly seeing another human being.

Until training from primary school to the police academy does more to teach competency, compassion, and cultural sensitivity.

Until we do not devote all our time to fighting for those who wear uniforms but also for those who work for slave wages and have no documented forms.

Until justice is not whitewashed and we see our neighbors of all races and creeds as worthy of our patience, listening ears, and voices.

Until we stop calling evil, good; good, evil; and good, good enough.

May we be blessed to love radically, live boldly, and labor relentlessly as we fight for justice!

LORD, in your mercy,
…hear our cries.

Child to Mother

By Valerie Boyer

Ponder the author’s 21st-scentury response to the iconic poem “Mother to Son,” written in 1922 by Langston Hughes, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47559/mother-to-son.

Well, Mother, allow me the opportunity thank you,
Because you fought for me to have life on a crystal stair.
But even the crystal stair was a lil’ rough
Though there were no tacks, it had cracks in the glass that scrape your feet
And, no, there weren’t splinters, but the shattered pieces and broken-off glass were just as piercing.

But I saw you, Mama, and like you, all the time
I’ve been a climbin’ on – even when people said I didn’t belong
And reachin’ new heights – while seeing my reflection in the glass behind and before me
And turnin’ corners on the revolving stair, to learn that every round really does go higher and higher
And the higher we got, ma, instead of it getting lighter, the stairs got dimmer,
And it seemed surrounding souls got darker instead
And I had to be the one that represented the light.

So, Ma, I won’t turn my back; I’ll just reach high and pull forward,
And, I promise, I won’t sit because the glass is too cold for my warm spirit, anyways.
So I’ma keep goin,’ mama, just like you said.
And I’ma keep climbing, mama, just like you did.
And tellin’ you thank you, for fighting
for me to even be on the crystal stair.

Protect My Boys

By Curry F. Butler

A Prayer, Inspired by Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, John 17
May be used as a response to the Gospel Reading or as a Response to the Sermon. Consider a dramatic presentation of this prayer.

Dear Father,

I’m about to go away and I need to get this off my chest. I have done my best to follow your request and to bring fame to your name. Now I just have one favor to ask…

Please protect my boys.

They have kept your word. They know about our family and understand our truth. They actually believe. I’ll be home soon and I’m leaving them behind.

I just have one favor to ask . . . Please protect my boys.

Like Grandma used to sing, “I’m going home on the morning train.” I really don’t want to stay around because “the evening train may be too late.” I’m on the first cloud out of here. I’m leaving this world behind. I did my best to protect them while I was here in this mean, cruel, world where social injustices, public lynchings, and poverty are the name of the game.*

I just have one favor to ask . . . Please protect my boys.

This world doesn’t like them. It hated me! Wrap them in your truth so that they may be sheltered from the manipulation and the bullets of the enemy.

Did I mention . . . I just have one favor to ask . . .

Please protect my boys.

Sincerely,

Your Son, Jesus

*Note: The author’s original version included lyrics from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” As this prayer is presented, you may choose to add these or other relevant lyrics.

A Litany in Honor of African Americans in STEM

By Stephon Carlisle Void

God of mercy and love, we thank you for your vison to give us the gifts of science, technology, engineering, and math. Through the gift of discovery, we learn more about how your world works every day. So many of these bright minds overcame racial and social injustice to make contributions to the world through STEM disciplines.

Lord, we thank you for your vision.

We thank you for the innovative thinkers and inventors such as George Washington Carver, Charles Drew, Lewis Latimer, Garret Morgan, Daniel Hale Williams, Madam C.J. Walker, Benjamin Banneker, Elijah McCoy, Jan Matzeliger, Fred Jones, Lonnie Johnson, and countless others. Because of their vison, our world is a better place.

Lord, we thank you for their vision.

We thank you for men and women architects like the ancient Egyptians, Beverly Greene, Norma Sklarek, Danita M. Brown, John Chase, Marshall Purnell, Robert R. Taylor, Walter T. Bailey, and others for filling our skies with great works structural art. Because of their vision, our world is a beautiful place.

Lord, we thank you for their vision.

We thank you for men and women astronauts such as Guion Bluford, Ronald McNair, Frederick D. Gregory, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Dr. Mae Jemison, Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higginbotham, Yvonne Cagle, and Jeanette J. Epps. We thank you for mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson. Because of their hard work and vision, we can reach for the stars and enjoy the universe you created.

Lord, we thank you for their vision.

We thank you for the bright minds of Percy Julian, Ernest E. Just, Neil deGrasse Tyson, St. Elmo Brady, Lloyd Hall, Marie Daly, and Joseph Graves. Because of their devotion to biology, chemistry, and physics, we understand your world on a microscopic level.

Lord, we thank you for their vision.

God of all knowledge, we thank for these great leaders and their contributions to make this world a better place. We acknowledge that without your input, none of these innovators would exist. May their dedication to learn about the unknown inspire others to appreciate the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math in our lives. May you continue to be our light of wisdom and knowledge in this ever-changing world that you blessed us with.

Amen.

Now, Amen and Ashe!

By Nicolas “nYk p” Pettye

Adapted, by the author, for liturgy

Leader: Giver of the sunbeams that peer
Congregation: Each day through ev’ry cloud,

Leader: We acknowledge your presence here
Congregation: With our heads humbly bowed.

Leader: We honor you as the sole One
Congregation: Who has sustained us all.

Leader: When our lives seemed to come undone,
Congregation: Your great hand broke our fall.

Leader: As you did with our ancestors,
Congregation: You kept us through each storm.

Leader: With life’s billows our great testers,
Congregation: Your comfort kept us warm.

Leader: You made our flesh and dwell within
Congregation: To wash away our sin

Leader: And bless us with rich melanin
Congregation: That beautifies our skin.

Leader: We thank you for our forbearers
Congregation: And for those newly born

Leader: For, through them, our countless treasures
Congregation: Are unbruised and untorn . . .

Leader: Treasures of Heritage ages
Congregation: Old and our strength shows it.

Leader: Written on the sacred pages
Congregation: Marked on by Black poets

Leader: Are words of great inspiration
Congregation: To lift us when we mourn.

Leader: They give their asseveration
Congregation: When villains give their scorn.

Leader: These are words inspired by you
Congregation: To affirm our merit

Leader: Through your great love, ancient and true.
Congregation: Please help us to bear it

Leader: And bear it deep within our hearts
Congregation: For Your love soothes all pain.

Leader: This is how our forgiveness starts
Congregation: So from hate we abstain.

Leader: Now, as we utter this meek prayer,
Congregation: Please show those with no shame

Leader: Whose great grandfathers stripped ours bare,
Congregation: And did so in Your name,

Leader: To thrash them with their rods and whips
Congregation: While bound by iron chains

Leader: And packed them, like cattle, in ships
Congregation: For petty fiscal gain –

Leader: Show them that love should guide all deeds
Congregation: Since we should reflect You

Leader: For you faithfully meet all needs
Congregation: Regardless of one’s hue

Leader: Help us all to walk in your love
Congregation: And to seek above all

Leader: Your will and the justice thereof
Congregation: To end all humankind’s gall.

Leader: As we lay all malice aside,
Congregation: All this, we humbly pray.

All: May Your love always be our guide.
Now, Amen and Ashe!

Copyright © nYk p

Used with the author’s permission.

Who Am I?

By Stephon Carlisle Void

When someone asks me “who I am,”
I tell them:
I am the great mind that was taken from the Motherland.
I am the one that survived the Middle Passage.
I am the one that built a nation with my blood, sweat, and tears.
I am the visionary that built and invented things that changed modern America.
I am Claflin, South Carolina State, Benedict, Allen, Howard, Clark, Spelman, Morehouse, Bethune-Cookman, Tuskegee, Paine, and other Historically Black Colleges or Universities that taught young people that they are great.
I am the Divine 9.
I am the Harlem Renaissance.
I am jazz, soul, blues, gospel, and hip-hop.
I am the sharecropper, the maid, and the nanny.
I am the farmer, the seamstress, the factory worker, and the teacher.
I am the midwife, the doctor, and the nurse.
I am the strange fruit that hung from southern trees.
I am the marcher, the freedom rider, and the children that died in Birmingham.
I am the Civil Rights Movement.
I am the future that Martin dreamed about.
I am the hope and change that Obama spoke of.
I am strong.
I am great.
I am blessed.
I am a child of God.
I am Black America.

Remembering Rosa Parks

A Prayer of Confession Inspired by Romans 12:1

BY SAFIYAH FOSUA

(Romans 12:1 NRSV) 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

The apostle Paul encouraged the Roman Christians to present themselves before God as living sacrifices.
Almighty God, today we confess that we have not been so willing to sacrifice.
We have preferred comfort, convenience, and safety over the need
to stand up for what we believe
or to sit down and to refuse to move until justice comes.
We confess that we have been all too willing to let others do what all of us should do.
We confess fear for physical safety.
We thank you, O God, for the example of Rosa Parks,
born a woman,
born a black woman,
born a black woman in the Old South,
where it was once both acceptable and legal
to discriminate against blacks and women.

We thank you for her example of courage and faith, and pray that when opportunity presents itself, we might respond with similar courage and similar faith. Amen.

Who Knows?

By Safiyah Fosua

Who knows what signal,
what internal sentry,
prodded Rosa to sit when the bus driver said: “Get up and move.”

Was it her aching feet as some have said?
Was it her pounding head that could not wrap itself around the concept of such inequality?
Or was it her aching heart, bruised from years of injury compounded with interest?

Perhaps, it was just impossible for her to walk any longer with the spiny pebble of injustice in her shoe, in her life, in her spirit.

Only God knows the signal,
the sentry,
the prod required for each of us.

Oh God, let there be enough feeling left in me to feel your nudging when it comes.
Amen.


The authors:

Valerie Boyer was born and raised in Galveston, Texas, the home of Juneteenth, curated at Howard University, with journey to Detroit, Michigan, and now Columbus, Ohio. Valerie has embraced life through the lens of preaching, praying, poetry, and activism, working to make a difference in different pockets of the world, one person at a time.

Rev. Curry F. Butler, Jr. is an ordained deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Currently, Rev. Butler is completing his Doctor of Ministry degree at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas is a writer, researcher, and adjunct professor who lives with her husband, John, in South Carolina. Her current work includes doing an ethnographic study of the flourishing of Black clergywomen and providing soul care as a form of reparations to women to give their time, resources, and life to the thriving of Black churches.

Nicolas Pettye (Nicolas “nYk p” Pettye) is a graduate of Paine College and currently a student of Gammon Theological Seminary. He is a member of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Augusta, Georgia. He aspires to continue using his musical and creative gifts for the edification of the church after graduating from seminary.

Stephon Carlisle Void is a Certified Lay Servant in the South Carolina Annual Conference and is a member of New Covenant United Methodist Church in Bowman, South Carolina. He is currently a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Technician and facilities manager at Claflin University.


[i] New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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